More Joondalup ICU beds, staff needed to fight COVID-19

WA only has 168 ICU beds but the North Metropolitan Health Service says Joondalup Health Campus and the WA public health system are well-equipped and prepared to deal with communicable diseases. File picture

AS COVID-19 spreads throughout the northern suburbs the Joondalup emergency department will need to triple in size and its intensive care unit double, according to Australian Medical Association WA president Andrew Miller.

Dr Miller’s estimation about Joondalup’s ICU required capacity is not radical when you consider comments made by NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant at a meeting of the Portfolio Committee No 2 – Health on March 12.

At the meeting Dr Chant said the NSW health system had been asked to plan for a doubling of intensive care unit (ICU) capacity, which also included a doubling of ventilator capacity.

The most recent data Yanchep News Online could source about ICU beds was from the Australian and New Zealand Intensive Care Society CORE (Centre for Outcome and Resource Evaluation) 2018 report which said WA had 162 ICU beds in 2016.

But Yanchep News Online understands WA now has 168 ICU beds with plans underway to expand that number to 500.

Yanchep News Online could not find statistics on how many ICU beds there are at JHC but understands that even in normal times the ED at JHC is one of the busiest in Australia with about 280 people a day visiting it.

Yanchep News Online asked Health Minister Roger Cook’s office and the Department of Health if Dr Miller’s claim fitted with their projections and planning to deal with COVID-19 patients at JHC and if so was there a date for when the extra resources would be available.

They were also asked how many extra staff would be needed to increase capacity at the Joondalup ED and ICU.

The North Metropolitan Health Service did not respond to capacity or staffing questions but said the WA public health system, including Joondalup Health Campus (JHC), managed and treated communicable diseases such as influenza, measles, pertussis and pneumococcal infection every day and was well-equipped and prepared to deal with such cases.

“Strict infectious disease control processes are in place at Joondalup Health Campus and the hospital continues to work closely with the WA Department of Health,’’ a spokesman said.

On March 23 Joondalup Health Campus deputy chief executive officer Dr Amanda Ling said JHC had put a call out for registered nurses and midwives, enrolled nurses and assistants in-nursing.

“The hospital is also seeking senior medical practitioners – particularly ICU, emergency medicine, respiratory medicine, anaesthesia and general medicine, general practitioners and junior medical practitioners,’’ she said.

At a press conference on Saturday, March 28 WA Health Minister Roger Cook said the state and federal governments were doing their best to prepare for the growth of the epidemic by buying more equipment, including PPE.

The government has also been advertising for an immediate start for doctors, nurses and other clinical staff.

By yesterday WA had recorded a total of 312 COVID-19 cases.

Mr Cook said 50 per cent of WA’s cases had come from people who had travelled by plane and 25 per cent from people who had been on cruise ships while the final 25 per cent had been people who had close contact with people in those two groups.